Monday, May 12, 2014

Networking doesn't end at the career fair

So you've got a business card. Now what? When you leave a happy hour, career fair or conference with a new contact, it’s important to follow up.

Whether you’re a techy or you prefer to keep an address book, you need to make sure you keep up with the people in your network. Chances are a recruiter at a career fair will forget you quickly if you don’t follow up. Jennifer Jordan, director of the business career services center, suggests following up because employers often meet a lot of people at an event.

“Usually at a networking event, you’re not going to have a 30-minute conversation with somebody,” Jordan said. “People are moving around, talking to various individuals. You certainly want to be sensitive to not dominating somebody’s time.”

Twenty-two percent of Internet-users over the age of 18 have embraced LinkedIn, a major social networking site for professionals, according to the Pew Research Internet Project. Some here at KU, including Jordan, use LinkedIn to both manage and expand their professional networks. Jordan said she tries to connect on LinkedIn with those whom she meets at networking events.

“If I collect a business card, I’m going to go straight to LinkedIn and try to connect with that person electronically so that I have just pulled them into my network,” she said. “That’s how I personally organize my network, but I think that other systems are probably very workable for other individuals.”

Social media sites like LinkedIn make it easier to organize and keep track of your network. Devon Bull, president of the Entrepreneurship Club, said he connects with other professionals through Twitter. He said it’s important for students to have a positive image on Twitter if they’re going to give that information out to potential employers.

“I’m trying to develop an image on there that employers can see, but most students shouldn't do that unless they've already done their work beforehand,” Bull said.

No matter the method you choose to manage your network, the relationship is an active, two-way street. Reach out soon after you meet your new contact if you feel the relationship could be mutually beneficial.

Kayleigh Sellens, president of Supply Chain Management Club and co-president of American Business Women’s Association, said remaining in contact and asking questions has allowed her to develop strong relationships with her business contacts.

“Maintaining contact and asking questions have been most beneficial for me,” Sellens said. “It lets them know that you consider them to be a valuable resource for information.”

This is the third in a four-part series about networking. Check back for the fourth and final blog about when and where to network.

by Allison Kite